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Backup plan

In a city that has suffered a steady stream of bad news about its schools, it looked as if District of Columbia students would be disappointed one more time.

But an awards ceremony sponsored by Parents United for D.C. Public Schools went forward last week as scheduled, thanks to the American Federation of Teachers, its 5,100-member Washington Teachers Union affiliate, and George Washington University.

For a time, the celebration was in jeopardy. The parents' group, which wanted to honor high school students with B averages or higher, thought that about 300 students would participate in the May 31 event. It looked as though an auditorium at the city's Eastern High School would suffice. But when more than 1,000 students signed up, the plans were scrapped because the school couldn't hold that many people, and alternatives were expensive.

Courtland Milloy, a local-page columnist for The Washington Post, publicized the organizers' plight. He noted that the city's convention center would cost $14,000 to rent and that the local armory had no air conditioning.

"So the question now is: Will D.C. public school students be let down yet again?" he wrote in a May 19 column. ( "Grades Are Up, But They May Be Let Down,"The Washington Post.)

The answer was no. Officials at George Washington University offered their gymnasium. And the 1 million-member AFT and its local affiliate chipped in an estimated $7,000 to cover the costs associated with the event.

Delabian Rice-Thurston, the executive director of Parents United, was pleased by the unions' support. "What could be better to salute students making B's or better?" she said of the teachers' contributions.

While the 71,000-student city schools have more than 1,000 high school students with B or better averages, Ms. Rice-Thurston said, the first-of-its-kind event carried its own rigorous requirement: signed forms from parents and counselors testifying to students' academic records.

—Ann Bradley

Vol. 19, Issue 39, Page 3

Published in Print: June 7, 2000, as Take Note

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